Making an Effective Business Plan Presentation

Making an Effective Business Plan Presentation

Many business plans are not only written, they are also presented. For example, if a bank loan committee or consortium of venture capitalists has to make an investment decision, it is more efficient to ask the business owner to make a presentation to the group, rather than have each member read the plan. Presentations also allow an opportunity for interactive questions and answers and for the investors to "size up" the person to whom they are loaning money. This last point is not an inconsequential consideration for both the investor and business owner.

We cannot, in this lesson, make you a great presenter. That takes knowledge of the subject, confidence, experience, and practice. However this lesson does start you on the path to being a better presenter.

If your course assignment requires a presentation, your instructor will give you some guidance about length of presentation, proper format, target audience, and so on. As emphasized next, this is critical information for making an effective presentation.

The lesson outline is:

Fundamentals of Presenting

Suggestions for Making a Great Presentation

Additional Resources for Preparing and Delivering an Effective Presentation

Fundamentals of Presenting

Making an effective presentation isn't that difficult. The process begins with a few fundamentals.

Know your target audience: As you did for the business plan itself, prepare your presentation with the information needs, expectations, attitudes, and knowledge levels of your intended audience in mind. Think about questions such as:

For example, assume the target audience for your business plan presentation is a bank loan committee. In this context, the presentation should give the committee an overview of your plans and expectations, knowing that the detail is in the business plan. The focus should not be on just marketing or just financials, and certainly not on what the Web site will look like. Instead, the presentation should present an overview of the proposed business, sell the business idea, and conclude with financials and your specific request for funds.

Timing counts: Your course instructor will determine how long the presentation should be, including sufficient time for questions and answers. In a "real" presentation, this counts too. Clarify in advance how much time you will have and be sure to leave time for questions and still conclude on time.

How many presenters? You may have completed this business plan as a group. So does everyone present? Or just one person? In your in-class presentation as well as a formal business presentation, a lot of considerations impact this decision. If it is a short presentation, one person making the presentation is probably the best choice. Any presentation over 15 minutes should probably have more than one presenter, perhaps 10 to15 minutes per presenter. Why? Because it is unlikely that one person has all the expertise, a presentation is more interesting to the listeners when there is a change in presenters, and multiple presenters shows there is a depth of knowledge about the business that is distributed throughout the group.

A useful presentation hint is that when it is time for questions, all members of the group stand up and answer questions in their area of expertise. This reinforces that this was a group effort and avoids putting the final speaker on the spot if a question is asked that he or she cannot answer.

Print your presentation: Always have paper copies of your presentation available for your audience, printed either three or six slides per page. Whether to distribute these copies before or after the presentation is a presenter's decision, but most listeners prefer to have the copies in advance so they can follow along more easily and take notes. However, the members of the audience sometimes focus on the handouts and don't pay close attention to what the speaker is saying. Also, if there are big surprises in the presentation, listeners can spoil the surprises by reading ahead. However, because most listeners prefer copies in advance, that is usually the best decision.

Suggestions for Making a Great Presentation

Many students enrolled in an e-business course will already have had a course in business communications and/or other opportunities to become an experienced presenter. However, just in case, here are some suggestions or reminders on how to make a great presentation:

Content suggestions: We offer the following suggestions to improve the content of the presentation, or what you say.

Presentation Suggestions The following suggestions improve the presentation of the presentation, or how you say it.

Finally, the most important three things to know about making a great presentation are: practice, practice, and practice!

(The presentation suggestions in this lesson are Dennis Viehland 2005.)

Assignment 20: Following guidance from your instructor about length, scope, target audience, etc., prepare a professional presentation of your business plan following the instructions provided previously. Follow the guidance provided by your instructor to submit or present this PowerPoint presentation.

Additional Resources for Preparing and Delivering an Effective Presentation

The Web site contains original and reprinted articles in the areas of presentation creation, delivery, and technology. Most articles tend to cover specific issues and be for more advanced and professional presenters (i.e., not much general information here).

Jeff Radal's Effective Presentations page delivers online tutorials on (a) oral presentations, (b) visual aids for presentations, and (c) effective poster presentations, but with slow and awkward navigation.

Presenters University offers short articles ("courses") about making presentations, a bulletin board for asking questions ("ask the professor"), and PowerPoint templates ("multimedia downloads").

A collection of PowerPoint templates that can add unique and highly relevant backgrounds to a presentation is available from

Small, concise books such as Presentation Skills For Managers by Jennifer Rotondo and Mike Rotondo Jr. (McGraw-Hill, 2001) focus on presentation techniques and are best for beginner presenters. Longer, in-depth books such as Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz by Diane Diresta (Chandler House Press, 1998) cover a wider range of presentation skills including presentations, public speaking, and audience participation and control. Rather than recommend any of the dozens of how-to-make-a-presentation books out there, we recommend you visit your university library or local bookstore to find a book that suits your needs.

Other small articles that offer advice to novice presenters include:

"Designing Presentation Visuals" from Media Services, Robert A. L. Mortvedt Library

Pacific Lutheran University

"Making Effective Oral Presentations" by E. Wertheim, Northeastern University, College of Business

"10 Tips for Designing Effective Visual Presentations" from the 3M Meeting Network

Navigation Guide for the E-Business Plan Tutorial
Introduction to the E-Business Plan Tutorial
    Top Ten Resources for Writing an e-Business Plan
Fundamentals of e-Business Planning
Writing a "Read Right" Plan
Executive Summary
Business Description
   Mission Statement
   Business Goals
   Project Objectives
   Business Model
Market Analysis
Competitor Analysis
Financial Statements
Making an Effective Business Plan Presentation
Appendix: e-Business Plan Tutorial Assignments

This E-Business Plan lesson was last updated on May 29, 2007. You can send questions, comments, and suggestions for improvement to Peter Marshall (